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Testimonies 30 years after a civil war: Hezbollah “Martyr Institute”

From the issue of the daily Al Balad, May 28, 2005

Five years have elapsed since the Israeli withdrawal from south Lebanon.  The investigative piece is analyzing the state of the industry of forming martyrs, which is the culture of Hezbollah.

From the start, even before publicly announcing its formation between the years 1976-1982, Hezbollah founders spread the culture of Islamic salvation, in tune with the victory of Khomeini’s revolution in Iran among the Southern Lebanese Shiaa.

The “Amal” militia has already paved the way by recruiting the Shiaa youth, already affiliated to other political parties.

The Islamic salvation culture targeted the broken families, the orphans, and those who could not resume their education. Hezbollah prepared them to be fighters and martyrs.  The first martyrs were the fertile land on which Hezbollah cultivated its recruiting domain among the families and relatives of the martyrs.

Hezbollah was the primary organization that instituted specialized organs to reap the benefit such as the “Martyr Institute”, which is to generate more recruits for martyrdom and organs to follow up on the event of martyr cases.

A formal process is followed after a martyr is declared.  A group of the martyr’s brothers and friends converge to the family residence and deliver the “good news”. Then, the whole neighborhood presents their condolences and a loudspeaker is mounted on the roof to chant verses from the Koran and other Iranian lyrics.

The next day, the body of the martyr is washed by his comrades in arm who individually approach their lips from his ear and proffer their last wishes and salutations to the predecessors in heaven for him to deliver on their behalf.  Some of these members could as well write their wishes on a piece of paper that is attached to the “Kafan” the white cloth wrapping the body of the martyr.

After the ceremony, the newspapermen of the “3ahd” visit the family to note down the martyr’s biography and publish it in newspapers along with a collection of his photos. The various Hezbollah institutes take over the reconstitution of the lives of the whole family. The whole family starts participating in the cultural procedures and adopting the symbolisms of Hezbollah from what to wear, how to salute, what to say and how to behave in gathering in rhythmic and synchronized manners.

The “Martyr Institute” was established in 1982, after the Israeli invasion of Lebanon.  This institute is considered similar to the one established in Iran.  The main role of the institute is to keep the culture of martyrdom alive and current in the fabric of the families who lost a martyr.  The institute comprises 1,500 employees and volunteers and is divided into two directorates:

The first branch is involved with public relation and the activities.

The second branch is specialized in finding guarantors or guardians for the children of martyrs and companions for their spouses. The sources of most of the funds for this branch come from Iran.

A large female organ manages this branch so that the martyr is never forgotten and his value increases after his martyrdom.  A museum has been established to preserve the valuables and the belongings of the martyrs.  These procedures tell the martyr that his family will be fine after he dies and a message to the enemy that if he kills a member of Hezbollah then the martyr will generates ten folds more of ready martyrs and a wider adherents to the party.

Women are the preserver of the society of martyrs, while men are the instrument and the providers of martyrs.  Thus, unlike the secular parties (such as the Communist Party or the Syrian Social National Party) who had mixed martyrs of both genders, Hezbollah never prepared women for the task of martyrdom .

The martyr spreads his aura around his family and relatives, and his achievements are kept alive.  The women of the martyr’s family are attributed the ranks of cousins of “Zinab”, who was the sister of their prime martyr Hussine.  For instance, members of Hezbollah say: “Your veil sister is more precious than my blood”.

Another Hezbollah culture is to allow its supporters to keep vigil near enemy lines for a period extending beyond two weeks so that he is trained to be ready emotionally when facing his enemy. The Koran says: “O faithful, be patient, keep vigil and believe in God so that you might succeed.” This requirement is akin to compulsive military recruitment in States so that differences among the society’s strata are diminished.  In that regard, the leaders of Hezbollah participate in the vigils amid their members and supporters.

The article is wondering how Hezbollah is going to maintain his organization, now that relative peace is no longer generating martyrs?

The issue of the daily Al Balad, May 13, 2005

Before the war, Tripoli was a busy sea port city with the casino Bohemia in the area of Jemizat and the Lido in Tal Square.  Nowadays, the citizen of Tripoli, especially the youth, have to drive to neighboring Christian villages and towns in order to drink alcohol, dance and have a good time. They have to drive to Zgarta, Ehden, Dahr Ain, and Betrun to pay visits to night clubs and bars.

The Islamists still have enough influence to prohibit alcohol consumption through various pressures including bombing any store suspected of selling booze. Many subsidiaries in different regions of Lebanon could offer alcoholic drinks but they refrain from that practice in Tripoli proper.

Many inhabitants who drink outside the city exhibit conservative stands within the city limits. Those who feel like drinking do it within their closed cars with their friends. Two parliamentary deputies supported the opening of a fancy night club in the main avenue of Riad Solh but failed to implement it. The main objection to any openness is the traditional stock phrase: “Tripoli has its proper character and it is advisable to leave the city alone”.

Tripoli did not enjoy the largess of government expenditures even though Rashid Karame was the Prime Minister who stayed the longer time as head of various governments.

The main souk in Bab Tebaneh is the most overcrowded in the country and within a residential district. The souk is practically opened 24 hours and the security forces are non existent to control the order and safety of the resident inhabitants. Residents are not able to enjoy any quietness and repose except during official holidays. There were many promises to relocate the souk to commercial zones with better facilities and modern infrastructure but nothing so far materialized.

Testimonials 30 years after a civil war

The issue May 9, 2005 of daily Al Balad

 A girl testified that she did not hear of the General Aoun Movement (Tayyar Taghyir wa Islah)until her last High School year. When the authority cancelled a live interview with the General on channel MTV the school bus passed by the Science University, and she picked up a few leaflets denouncing the authorities. Her teacher complained to the head master who questioned her. 

She watched a demonstration of the General Aoun Movement supporters in front of the MTV headquarter; that was the first time she was exposed to a demonstration. In the faculty of natural sciences, she participated in handing out leaflets, especially on the eve of Independence Days, November 21.

A few times, students were confronted by intelligence agents and booked overnight.  The students applied as candidates for the student council, simply to be present during the counting of the ballot.

The General’s freedom movement supporters performed dangerous activities such as distributing leaflets at night.  The faculty was shut down and barbed wires were erected around the faculty to prevent the movement’s political celebrations or gatherings.

The girl’s first action was to participate in a gathering reclaiming the setting free of the student Walid Ashkar.  She was at the Museum demonstration of April 2000 where dozens of students were beaten up and sent to prisons.  The coded honking of the Tayayr was heard from the encircled demonstrators, while she kept running away from the mayhem.

The students knew the intelligence agents in their faculty by name, and they used to tambourine on their desks during their presence and shouting “Out Fassido”.

The students marched on March 14, 2000 toward the Syrian army headquarter in Fanar and she did not feel any sort of exhaustion.  Citizens threw rice on the marchers in support and the Lebanese soldiers were uncomfortable of their duty of keeping the peace.  Fear vanished from her life after she was incarcerated, and she paid no attention to her relatives’ admonitions such as “What can you realize?  Girl, why do you have to act like that?”

Testimonials 30 years after a civil war: Return of General Michel Aoun 

The issue May 8, 2005 of daily Al Balad

 In this day, General Michel Aoun returned to Lebanon from 15 years of exile, spent mostly in France.  Aoun had promised to return home after the Syrian troops officially withdrawal from all Lebanese territories, and before the Parliamentary election so that he could be involved in that process on the ground. 

Aoun told the 350 thousand citizens gathered at the Martyrs’ Square: “Lebanon is freed. If I ever use any confessional (sectarian) language I’ll ask you to dismiss me.  We are ready to fight the political money that brought Lebanon to bankruptcy, and we will prosecute any responsible proved to be part of these grand thefts.” 

400 cars and buses flocked from the Christian villages around East Sidon to welcome their leader and emancipator from the Syrian hegemony.  People converged from Byblos, Haret Hrike, Dir Kamar, Zahle, Ashkut, Ajaltun, from the North, South, Mount Lebanon and the Bekaa valley.

General Aoun once said that any solution to succeed and to last needs the simultaneous agreement and approval of Lebanon, Syria, and Israel for the resolution of any problem between two of these countries. General Aoun also stated that Lebanon is too big to be swallowed and too small to be divided.

The supporters of the General freedom movement (Tayyar Taghyir wa Islah) constantly update their slogans, songs and symbols.  They used to rely on military songs such as “Only you soldiers of Lebanon” and “Throw flowers, the soldiers have arrived”  then adopted our famous singer Mageda Rumy songs such as “Resist your encirclement” and “I swear to God”. The Movement moved on to liking a few leftist songs such as “I am coming back to the disinherited people”. 

The  favorite poets of the sympatizers are: Said Akl, Maurice Awad and father Simon Assaf.  They adopted the Omega symbol for resistance, enclosing the cedar tree and they are planning on removing all the pictures of the General in military attire to be replaced by civilian garment pictures.

Testimonials 30 years after a civil war: On the Communist Party  status  

From The issue of the daily Al Balad, April 11, 2005

 Members of the Communist Party are disenchanted with its rigid structure of imposing political positions and letting go of those who publicly criticize its current stands.

The new generation of communists is not ready to succumb to old fashion party lines when the population is gaining momentum for change and vigorously demonstrating for their rights. The Communist party took an independent third stand during the freedom period from the Syrian occupation; it claimed that the opposition and conservative forces were gathering under sectarian lines, such as Christians and Moslem Sunnis against Moslem Shiaas.

The Communist party went ahead and organized a march that gathered around 20 thousands adherents and supporters.

A few of the Communist leaders publicly criticized this non popular position, and were fired from the ranks. Members of the party joined the demonstrations and some visited the freedom tents in the Martyrs’ Square.

When approached by former members and were challenged “Well, well, looks you are among us today?”, current members were apologetic in their comments giving excuses like feeling curious about what’s happening on the ground or cursing their leaders for their foolish decisions at this crucial moment in Lebanon freedom.

Many members have decided that enough is enough after several wrong turns; they quit the party to join the splintered faction called the Left Democratic Movement. In 2003-2004, students from the Lebanese University organized a sit in for 5 months because they were fed up with the security meddling in the academic affairs and wanted to reclaim the University independence in its administration and faculty appointments. The Communist Party central political bureau was against these demonstrations that support of the Lebanese University integrity and discouraged the students from participating, a position which aggravated the frustration of the young communist generation.

There was another group of University students in these freedom tents from the “Future Youth Association”.  The members of this group organized themselves in 1994 when Rafic Hariri was Prime Minister and seemed as the strongest political figure in the Lebanese power structure.  The internal regulations among these intellectuals were not purely political in nature because Hariri tried to steer them away from organizing political demonstrations due to his critical maneuvering situation.

The “Future movement” association fell back into organizing cultural conventions, economic workshops, planting tree campaigns and creating basket ball and volley ball teams.  Nevertheless, the association was active in student elections in various universities and their strength was commensurate with Hariri’s current political power.

After Hariri was asked to step aside as Prime Minister in 1998, and had to wait two years to regain the helm of the government, this association of intellectuals and graduate students realized that their “leader was not that powerful by a long shot” as Nader Nakib put it and that Hariri had to maneuver his allegiance and regain favors to the Syrian regime in order to get back to power.

The power base of this association was localized in Beirut and partially in Sidon.  After the assassination of Hariri, the “Future Youth Association” regained strength and individual initiative and tried to open centers in many regions of Lebanon for the coming parliamentary election.

Ali, an insider in the association, affirms that no politician who was under the Syrian control will be attached to the Future lists of candidates in the next Parliamentary election.

Testimonials 30 years after civil war: Freedom tents in the Martyrs’ Square  

The issue of April 9, 2005 of daily Al Balad 

Thirty years after the civil war, the youth of Lebanon are gathered under the Freedom tents in the Martyrs’ Square.  Supporters of many Lebanese political parties are discussing and getting to know one aother.  Catch phrases like “our speaker did not represent our real position” or “did you really like his speech?” are common. 

On one of the tents a placard states “Just a Lebanese citizen”.  In the middle of a discussion George asks Dima of her name and political affiliation.  Dima explains to George the principles of the “Left Democratic Movement”, a splinter of the Communist Party and other leftist factions. “What! Are you really a leftist?” says George, “You don’t look like a leftist”.  George tells Dima a common joke during the war which says” Immune your children against leftist ideology”.

George resumes asking Dima questions on her education and the ideology of her movement. He is very impressed of her graduate studies and the social reform programs of the movement and then asks her: “So, why are you here?”

Dima explains that the members of this movement combine political positions with on the ground actions and application. “You guys are cool. Who is your leader?” asks George.  “We have no leader. We organize ourselves in committees and vote on everything.  We make sure that guys and girls are equally represented in the elected committees.” replies Dima.  George invites Dima to take a cup of coffee in his tent.

A discussion is going on in the Left Democratic Movement and someone says: “I wish Samir Geaja is released from prison and General Aoun returns from exile so that our commemoration in April 13 is complete and representative of the unity of Lebanon”.

Another guy liked the name of the movement and stated that his faction will consider changing the name to “Right Democratic Movement”

Testimonials 30 years after civil war: Just about the withdrawal of the Syrian troops

Note: Investigations of the society thirty years after the start of the war

From The issue of the daily Al Balad, April 8, 2005

This chapter sheds the lights on the status of the Lebanese Republic, 30 years after the start of the civil war in 1975.  The chapter will comprise eye witness accounts and investigative reporting on the state of society, the political parties’ positions and civil organizations development and the hopes of the new generation for the future and the feasibility of any drastic changes.


Thirty years after the civil war, and just about the withdrawal of the Syrian troops from Lebanon, a discussion among a few former civil war militia fighters gathered for a night out. The house is in Dahieh and the discussion relates to the current string of night car-bombings occurring every four days in the Christian cantons, car-bombing that did not target citizens, but a few foreigner workers living around died and some were injured. 
These car bombings came in the aftermath of the two mass demonstrations, the first by Hezbollah on March 8, and the second counter demonstration following on March 14, 2005: the demonstrators raised the slogans of freedom, independence and self determination to Lebanon.

The man sympathizing with Hezbollah is convinced that the Christian opposition coalition is behind these bombings so that it could sustain rallying the population against Syria and the Shiaa sect, and ultimately to corner Hezbollah into disarming according to the UN resolution 1559. 

An elder man talks about the daily sit-in of some groups in tents erected in the Martyrs’ Square after the assassination of Prime Minister Hariri.  He claims that a few opposition groups are raising the picture of the Lebanese traitor to Israel Akl Hashem who was assassinated by Hezbollah during the occupation of Israel in south Lebanon, and that these people are being paid by the USA Embassy to continue their sit-in indefinitely.

.A man trying to convey the image of a cool and rational person expresses his displeasure with the opposition demonstration that expressed discrimination and hatred against the Syrian people in general, which could lead Lebanon into the unknown.

Another man in his thirties believes that the Christians are planning to recapture their lost political power so that they re-monopolize the economy and sign a peace treaty with Israel as they attempted in 1983 during former President Amine Gemayyel.  He resumes that if the Christian fail, they will definitely legitimize the de-facto canton separation.  He is willing to take arms again, if need be, in order to prevent the Christian take over of power.

A young man coming from Beirut asks them whether they are for the freedom and independence of Lebanon from the Syrian tutelage; and the answers were affirmatives unanimously. He goes on “against whom do you want to raise your arms?”  “Against those who want to disarm Hezbollah” is the reply of the rational man. 


People used to say that the Sunni city of Sidon is the door to the South ,but as you advance a little deeper in the South you realize that this door had shifted of location. The South did not seriously mourn the assassinated former Prime Minister Rafic Hariri, and the main concern of the population is where you stand: for or against the disarmament of Hezbollah.  Many of the former communists are members or sympathizers of Hezbollah and they are still excited to fight Israel and resist Israel plans in Lebanon.




May 2020

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